Posted by: Tommy | May 23, 2011

Socialist Hero Postalwoman

After our maybe-a-little-overboard custom-tailoring adventures in Hoi An, I was quite nervous about the reality of getting our newly-purchased goods safely home to Texas.  Every tailor shop has a list showing their shipping prices, but we had acquired stuff from 4 different tailoring shops plus we wanted to ship some stuff from Singapore and the Philippines as well.  Rather than ship 4+ different packages, we decided to handle it on our own.

Which led to Emily and I, hands full of packages and clothes bags, hanging on the side of a motorbike, speeding to the post office (Anna took a nap during this excitement).  We walked in and were immediately shown where to drop our goods.  Before we could even explain what we were doing, 2 postal employees had the customs forms out for us to complete and were instructing us in filling them out.  Anna’s and my stuff was in one pile, Emily’s was in another and the two of us were sitting off to the side, filling out forms, when we heard tape tearing.  We looked up – and saw two more postal employees with a tape gun out and half of my stuff already in a box.  They pulled the box out of their back room and boxed up all of my stuff – I didn’t even ask them to do it (though I’d heard that they did, which is why I didn’t already have it boxed).

After boxing up my stuff (and refolding some of the clothes to make them sit better), they set out to get Emily’s stuff boxed up.  She had a painting in a tube which made her package a bit odder in shape.  Not to worry – they had two boxes that combined would suffice.  The little postal lady got out her trusty tape gun and her scissors and set to work.  Before we’d finished the forms, she’d made Emily a box, had it packed up and then completely covered in tape, just to be sure her homemade box held together.

The charge for this kind of service - $0!

Next, she measured my tube (Anna and I bought a huge painting – for $55!) and found that it was actually too long to be shipped by the Vietnam post office.  By 6 cm. (a little over 2 inches).  I know we would have never gotten to this point with an American postal worker, but even if we had, this would have ended it.  But this was no American postal worker – this was a socialist hero postalwoman.  She unzipped the tube, saw that our painting was shorter than the tube around it … and got out her scissors and started cutting the excess tube away.  She trimmed it all the way flush with the painting – then measured it – perfect!  She’d cut away exactly 6 cm and could now ship the painting.

This lady is not your average disgruntled postal employee

Our paperwork complete, she took our packages to the scale to weigh them.  Mine were 16 kg (big box) and 2 kg (tube).  Emily’s was 8 kg.  The mailing options from Vietnam are seamail (takes 4 months) and airmail (takes 4 weeks) – and there is a paper chart for each country, showing the cost breakdown per half kg increase.  This woman calculates each option for each of our boxes, then makes a chart so we can compare.  And that’s not all.  We are both thinking seamail – it was less than half the cost of airmail – but the postal hero thought we should really be doing airmail, especially for my clothes box.  So she said she could discount our rate for airmail, knocking off 400,000 dong ($20).

I was so impressed by her professionalism, her obvious knowledge and her enthusiasm for her job that I decided to take her advice and shell out for the faster shipping.  I couldn’t imagine having a similar experience in America – our post office just doesn’t work that way.  I understand why – the USPS is an amazingly efficient machine that handles a tremendous volume – but I was comforted by the personal attention I got at the Vietnamese post office.  It was unusual, but fantastic.  Certainly not your standard “disgruntled postal employee” experience.



  1. It strikes me as so odd the things that are efficient and the things that aren’t on this trip. Even more the places that are corrupt and the places that aren’t. You would think economics would play a bigger role that it does. Interesting that she probably does not have any idea she is featured in a blog read by Americans. What would she think if she knew??

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